Frequently Asked Questions
Further details may be found by consulting Into Full Communion, accessible through this site.
- What is the Pastoral Provision?
The Pastoral Provision provides a process for married former Episcopal clergymen in the United States to petition for ordination as Roman Catholic priests in the various Latin Rite dioceses of the United States while dispensed from the obligation of celibacy.
- To what ecclesial communities does the Pastoral Provision apply?
Initially, the Pastoral Provision applied only to married clergymen of the Episcopal Church. In 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith determined that the Pastoral Provision applies to ecclesial communities that, in some form or other, have
broken with the Episcopal Church USA. They sometimes are referred to as “continuing Anglican communities.” These are The Reformed Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church in America, The Anglican Catholic Church – Original Province, The Anglican
Province of Christ the King, the Episcopal Missionary Church, and the Christian Episcopal Church. Since 2007, other ecclesial communities have separated from the Episcopal Church USA. Clergymen of these ecclesial communities may inquire of the
Ecclesiastical Delegate whether the Pastoral Provision may apply to them. The Pastoral Provision does not apply to the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church.
- May unmarried former Episcopal clergymen apply for ordination to the Roman Catholics priesthood through the Pastoral Provision?
No. An unmarried former minister in another church or ecclesial community would be handled as any other seminarian unless there is another issue (schism, for example) that has to be dealt with by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Otherwise the bishop is competent and the CDF does not need to get involved as no dispensation from celibacy is being sought.
- May clergymen, married or unmarried, of other Protestant ecclesial communities apply to the Pastoral Provision?
No. They must apply for the necessary formation and dispensations through their sponsoring bishop.
- May a clergyman who had been a Roman Catholic apply to the Pastoral Provision?
Men who have formally defected from the Catholic Church may not be considered for the Pastoral Provision. Other cases must be referred to the Holy See.
- When was the Pastoral Provision established?
The Pastoral Provision was established in 1982 by Pope Saint John Paul II at the request of former episcopal clergymen.
- How is the Pastoral Provision administered?
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has appointed an Ecclesiastical Delegate to oversee its work. The Ecclesiastical Delegate is Most Rev. Kevin W. Vann, J.C.D., Bishop of Orange in California. He is assisted by the Secretary of the Pastoral Provision, Rev. Quan Tran of the Diocese of Orange. The Theological Faculty of the Pastoral Provision is chaired by Msgr Robert J. Wister of Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, New Jersey.
- How does the Pastoral Provision work?
The Pastoral Provision in the United States provides a process of formation, assessment, study, and certification of former clergymen of the Episcopal Church USA and other continuing Anglican communities. In this way it serves the bishops who sponsor these former clergymen for ordination as Roman Catholic priests.
- Is the Pastoral Provision strictly academic?
No. While many of the services provided by the Pastoral Provision are academic, the process of preparation for ordination as a Roman Catholic priest includes psychological evaluation, pastoral training, spiritual direction, and liturgical preparation. These aspects of human, spiritual, and pastoral formation take place under the direction of the sponsoring bishop.
- Where do those ordained through the Pastoral Provision serve as Roman Catholic priests?
Priests ordained through the Pastoral Provision are incardinated into one of the various Latin Rite dioceses of the United States.
- Do those ordained as married priests serve as pastors of parishes?
The decision to appoint a married Catholic priest to the office of Pastor is left to the prudential judgment of that priest’s Bishop or Ordinary. Married priests often serve in a specialized ministry outside the parish setting. Care always is to be taken that confusion is not caused among the faithful and the value of celibacy always be upheld.
- Is the ordination as Roman Catholic priests of former Episcopal clergyman a “conditional” ordination?
No. Priests ordained through the Pastoral Provision are ordained absolutely, not conditionally. This was a personal decision of Pope Saint John Paul II. After Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Apostolicae curae declared Anglican orders “absolutely null and utterly void” in 1897, numerous Anglican bishops were consecrated with the participation of schismatic bishops of the various “Old Catholic” churches or former Roman Catholic bishops who had entered into schism. Occasionally, a bishop of one of the Eastern Orthodox churches participated in these ceremonies. According to some theologians, this allowed their consecration to be valid and in the apostolic succession. Thereby, the subsequent ordinations to priesthood performed by these Anglican bishops were deemed valid by some theologians. Pope Saint John Paul II decided to ignore this discussion by declaring the ordinations of former Episcopal clergymen to the Roman Catholic priesthood to be absolute, not conditional.
- Is the Pastoral Provision the same as The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter?
No. On January 1, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI established the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter for those groups of Anglicans in the United States who seek to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. The Pastoral Provision is separate and distinct from the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter oversees individuals, parishes, religious communities, and priests who use the Book of Divine Worship.
- May a priest ordained through the Pastoral Provision and incardinated into a Latin Rite Diocese in the United States, celebrate the liturgy according to the Book of Divine Worship?
A priest ordained through the Pastoral Provision may, with permission, celebrate the liturgy according to the Book of Divine Worship.
- What may be reasons for choosing either the Pastoral Provision or the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter?
There are many reasons, depending on individual circumstances. Some former Episcopal clergymen choose the Pastoral Provision over the Ordinariate because they do not desire to celebrate the liturgy according to the Book of Divine Worship. Others choose it because they wish to serve in an area of the country in which there are few or no parishioners who attend this liturgy. Some former Episcopal clergymen choose the Ordinariate over the Pastoral Provision because they prefer to use the Book of Divine Worship. Others choose it because they are entering into full communion with the See of Rome together with members of their congregation and wish to preserve their Anglican traditions.
- Is there a limit on how many married former Episcopal clergymen may be ordained for an individual Latin Rite diocese?
Yes. Several years ago, after several dioceses sponsored four or five candidates, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith specified that there are to be a maximum of two married priests in individual dioceses. The Congregation considers that retired
married priests (not in active ministry) do not count against the limit of two. This was done out of concern that it might appear that the discipline of celibacy was being relaxed.
- Who may sponsor a candidate for the Pastoral Provision?
Only the Ordinary (Diocesan Bishop) of a Latin Rite Diocese in the United States may sponsor a candidate.
- How does an interested clergyman inquire about the Pastoral Provision?
A potential candidate may make inquiry through the website of the Pastoral Provision. http://www.pastoralprovision.org/home.htm. Normally a potential candidate occasionally is encouraged to seek a sponsoring bishop. Either the Secretary of the Pastoral Provision or the Chairman of the Theological Faculty may explain procedures to a potential candidate but always remind the potential candidate that any communications of an official nature must be between a sponsoring bishop and the Ecclesiastical Delegate. This avoids miscommunication and subsequent confusion and misunderstanding. Similarly, should a candidates already in the process address inquiries to the Secretary or the Chairman, he will be advised to speak to his sponsoring bishop unless the inquiry is of a minor procedural issue such as an already approved date for certification and/assessment.
- What is the dossier?
The dossier is a collection of documents prepared by the candidate and the sponsoring bishop and sent to the Ecclesiastical Delegate. Details of the documentation required for the dossier are found in Into Full Communion.
- What happens to the dossier?
The dossier is reviewed by the Secretary of the Pastoral Provision who notes where there might be lacunae or deficiencies and reports to the Ecclesiastical Delegate, who also reviews the dossier. The dossier must be complete before it is sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
- What is the next step?
If its review is favorable, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith informs the sponsoring bishop that the candidate may proceed with the formation process. The sponsoring bishop appoints formation mentors for the human, spiritual, pastoral and
intellectual areas of formation.
- How long does the formation process last?
The sponsoring bishop oversees the human, spiritual, and pastoral formation of the candidate. The candidate may not proceed to certification until a minimum of two years have elapsed.
- What are “assessment” and “certification?”
The processes of assessment and certification are outlined on the website of the Pastoral Provision.
- When and where do the assessment and certification take place?
Assessments and certifications take place in spring and fall each year. They last for two days. They take place at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in South Orange NJ, or at a theologate designated by the Ecclesiastical Delegate. The exact dates are scheduled by the Chairman of the Theological Faculty after consultation with the Ecclesiastical Delegate.
- How much time must elapse between assessment and certification?
A minimum of two year must elapse after the assessment before the candidate is allowed to take the certification examination.
- Who receives the results of the assessment and certification?
The results of the assessment and certification are sent directly to the sponsoring bishop of the candidate. The members of the Faculty of the Pastoral Provision are instructed that they are not to reveal the results of certification examinations to candidates. They inform candidates that the results will be communicated to their sponsoring bishop who will inform them of the results. This also avoids miscommunication and subsequent confusion and misunderstanding.
- What happens after certification?
After the process is ratified by the Ecclesiastical Delegate, the sponsoring bishop may petition the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a rescript authorizing him to proceed to the diaconal and priestly ordination of the candidate.